It would seem that speaking of veganism and extreme metal in the same sentence goes against common sense especially if we seek to make a direct association between veganism and extreme metal.
Why would the most brutal form of metal in its most extreme expression be allied with the fight for anti-speciesism and vegan culture? There is an explanation for all of this and it goes further than the adoption of a vegan or vegetarian diet by the members of a band.
To better frame this, it is viable to mention the subcultures of the punk movement, which, at that time, were intimately aligned with the fight for animal rights and that, later, divided into anarcho-punk and the straight-edge.
Veganism: Eruption in British Music
Historically, we’re talking about the 80s, when these topics did not only manifest themselves in the song lyrics. Rather, activism associated with punk subculture was demonstrated through benefit concerts, ‘hunt sub’ associations, anti-apartheid movements and direct militant actions against murderers, etc.
This movement started to quickly open the road to other subgenres of punk rock and hardcore. Through this, and in the latter half of the 80s, a mixture of crust punk, metalcore, and grindcore found their ultimate expression.
With the explosion of Napalm Death and Carcass onto the grindcore scene in the United Kingdom, their lyrics centering upon strong criticism of the meat industry, animal torture, animal rights, exploitation by the man, and criticism of the political system of the government; became frequently discussed.
Carcass was also characterised by lyrics that included medical terminology that was almost unintelligible by their audience.
Among the first crust punk bands was Electro Hippies which included Jeff Walker, the bassist, and vocalist of Carcass; Extreme Noise Terror and Discharge. It is relevant to note that the members of these bands were vegans, vegetarians, or lacto ovo vegetarians.
It could be asserted that from this point on, the metal scene began to argue these topics. Brutal music charged with strong and confrontational political content challenged its listeners from another perspective. From the perspective of eating meat, and their support of organisations that fought against animal exploitation, poaching, and the struggle against fascism.
The vegan vocalist of Napalm Death, Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway, has expressed in various interviews that he considered it necessary to awaken people, from a young age to the mistreatment and exploitation that animals suffer when they’re destined for human consumption.
Greenway was a vegetarian since he was 14 and converted to veganism in 2012. Moreover, Greenway is known on the scene not only for his vocal style but also for his vegan activism and constant support for diverse animal organisations in the United Kingdom.
The musical legacy of both bands has had ample repercussion, not only for being pioneers in a subgenre of extreme metal but because in reality, whilst the bands are active and their sounds have evolved, their lyrics continue to politically challenge their listeners as they did from their early beginnings, broaching the problem of refugees in Europe, the fight against fascism and topics related to gender identity.
In the lyrics of Captive Bolt Pistol, of the Surgical Steel album by Carcass edited in 2007, Jeff Walker and company, tell us about what the captive projectile used in the slaughterhouses consists of.
For a more graphic and savage example, I suggest that you take a look at the 2005 documentary Earthlings, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. This documentary will walk you through the unbearable conditions animals are condemned to while waiting for their final journey to human consumption. Sad, but true at the same time.
TR: David Crowe.